How to Get Kids of Any Age to Eat Healthy
by Jamie Canter on September 17th, 2014

Food from Bountiful Baskets
Getting kids to eat healthy is not for the faint of heart!  You have to be ready for some resistance – mostly from you (ha ha!), but also from your kids.  Some of you have been feeding your kids hummus and kale chips since they were a toddler and I want to commend you for starting them off right!! But for the rest of us (like 99.999999%), that is not what our kids have grown up eating.  We might have started them off relatively healthy, but it wasn’t long before processed food became a staple in your menu and now you would like to make some changes.
Let me encourage you:  you can change your kids eating habits – no matter what age they are. It definitely gets harder, the longer they have been eating processed foods or surviving on out-of-balance food pyramid, but it can be done.  And don’t assume that teenagers can’t learn to eat healthy!  They might be the first to jump on board with this because they are exposed to messages about healthy eating, food choices and exercise at school and in the media.
Our story:  Our family changed our eating habits from unhealthy to healthy about 2 ½ year ago.  I grew up on processed foods, so it was a natural progression for me to serve my family what I loved to eat.  We have always eaten whole grain foods and home cooked meals, but many of those recipes called for condensed soups, processed meat or other convenience food.  And while our family wasn’t overweight, both my husband and I have parents with diabetes, so we set out to eat better and it TOTALLY changed our lives!
Food from Bountiful Baskets
First of all, eating healthy means reducing (and hopefully eliminating) processed foods and high-sodium options.  It means a daily intake of fruit, veggies and complex carbs. It also means NO artificial sweeteners!  At our house we try to eat clean, which means we try to make the foods that we would have purchased processed.  So, we don’t buy Rice-A-Roni anymore, but instead make our own Rice Pilaf recipe.  We don’t use canned chicken for enchiladas anymore, but rather, cook a small chicken from scratch and shred it ourselves.  We don’t use canned soup in our Chicken Pot Pie recipe, but make the sauce from flour and chicken broth.  This does take more time and effort, but we have seriously noticed the difference in how we feel and how our clothes fit! I lost 17 lbs after embarking on this journey and have seen my allergies and headaches go away!!
So, this is a list of ways to get your kids to eat healthy.  These are all things that we have done as a family!  And while it has taken a while (like months!!) for my kids to get on board, they now try to make healthy choices for snacks and meals.  They ask me questions about what is healthy and they opt to drink water instead of soda (At least sometimes they do, but that’s better than nothing!)  It can be done and you can do it!!
Here is my list. Feel free to add more in the comments.

  1. Sit down with your kids and make a list of fruits, veggies and complex carbs they like to eat.  What veggies do they like – raw and cooked?  Favorite fruits?  Do they like guacamole (it’s a healthy fat!) or hummus (I can’t stand the stuff but others love it!)  Greek Yogurt? Smoothies?  Beans and rice?  And if they list fried okra or creamed corn or mashed potatoes, that’s okay!  You can always find healthy versions of those or serve them in limited amounts.  Buy the foods from their lists and incorporate them into your menu.  Don’t worry if they don’t like asparagus or Brussels sprouts or anything green.  It will come!!

  2. Get on Pinterest with them and look up healthy snack ideas.  Make a list of the ones they like and have them help you make it.  It is hard to cook a food and not be tempted to try it.

  3. Have a healthy dinner night and have each person make something for it.  The younger kids will need some assistance, but let them be the main creator of it.  Set guidelines like, “You can’t pick the same type of dish” (We don’t want 4 fruit salads!) and “It has to have something that was grown in it.” 

  4. Create a “New Food” Reward system or journal.  Have them track when they eat something new.  Remind them that it takes 10 times for our taste buds to get used to eating something, so let them count how many times it is!  Give them a reward when they reach a milestone or have a dinner challenge for who can eat the most veggies.

  5. Watch a Healthy Food video.  You can find ones on Netflix like, “Forks Over Knives” and “Hungry for Change.”  Preview it first before showing it to your kids!!

  6. Have cut veggies and lots of fruit available for your kids.  Don’t wash your strawberries and grapes until you are ready to eat them and they will last longer.   We have a big drying mat that we put all our unrefrigerated fruit and it is easy for them to grab something to snack on.  Don’t worry about wasting the food when you start this journey.  You might have to throw them away or make a stir-fry from them.  That’s okay.  You need to get them used to the idea that healthy foods are available and ready to go.

  7. Make a plate of raw veggies and fruit and serve it with dinner.  Presentation can influence even kids, so make them look appealing and they are more likely to eat them.

  8. Get their friends to eat fruit and veggies when they come over to your house.  My kids have several friends that love certain fruits, which I always offer up when they are over.  Anytime your kids see someone they care about eating healthy, it plants a little seed in their brain!!

  9. Go to a local Farmer's Market or to the store and let your kids pick out anything in the fruit and veggie aisle and make it for them for dinner.  Let them put cheese on whatever veggie they want.  I can eat cauliflower without cheese on it now as an adult, but I couldn’t as a kid.  Be happy if they eat it, even if it’s covered in something.

  10. Sign up for a co-op like Bountiful Baskets where you get a basket of fruits and veggies direct from farms.  The food is usually fresher and we love getting a basket of unexpected goodies.  My kids have tried Apple Pears, Plumcots, Butternut Squash (In a casserole it tastes like pumpkin!) ,Persimmons (They hated them!) and more. (The picture above is of the bounty I got from one of my baskets from Bountiful Baskets.)

  11. Bribe them.  I have given my kids candy and money to try a new food.  I've had contests to see who eats the most new foods.  And guess what??? They eat lots of food they wouldn't before!

  12. Stick with it and don’t give up, even if your kids complain and cry.  (Cause they will!)  You are training their taste buds and little brains to like healthy food and for most people, it takes time!  Kids don’t learn to clean their room the first time you tell them, so don’t get discouraged about their healthy eating habits if you have to keep repeating yourself.  Being a parent means you will say the same thing about 687 times before they learn. 

  13. Don’t let them bypass healthy food for unhealthy food.  We have a rule in our house that if you don’t eat what I make for dinner, then you can eat a salad.  I don’t care if they put ranch or croutons or anything else on the salad, as long as they eat it.   So when they complain about the healthy dinner options, I just point them to the salad bin.

  14. EAT IT YOURSELF!!  Your kids are so much more likely to eat healthy if they see you do it.  They learn behaviors from us, even if doesn’t show up until they are older.  You can make a difference just by eating it yourself!  Plus, if you lose weight and feel better, then you will be motivated to help your kids change their habits.

What about you?  What are ideas you have used to get your kids to eat healthy?

Posted in Food & Recipes    Tagged with clean-eating, healthy eating, kids, austin


Charlotte Brinkley - September 17th, 2014 at 3:24 PM
This is such a great plan! I wish I had learned to eat right when I was a child. I know I would be healthier and thinner!
Gretchen - September 17th, 2014 at 10:12 PM
Love this Jamie!! All so true. We are still a work in progress with our "clean" eating, but way better than we were a few years ago.
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